One Putt Broadcasting has been delisted from the Fall Nielsen Radio Report.
Its radio stations — a joint operation of KFIG (AM 940) and KFPT (AM 790) owner Chris Pacheco and KJWL (FM 99.3) and KYNO (AM 1430) owner John Ostlund — were dropped from the report because six of the ratings guides used to determine listening trends in the Fresno market were filled out by members of the media — a serious violation with the Nielsen Audio rules.
This is the third time since 2011 that One Putt Broadcasting has been part of improper surveys. In that first incident, when management of the radio station discovered diaries had been sent to a media household favoring K-Jewel, they alerted the ratings company. A similar incident occurred in the Spring 2013 ratings and that book had to be re-issued for the Fresno market. And now, a third incident has occurred and Nielsen Audio has handed down the 90-day punishment.
Neither Nielsen Audio nor the local radio group will identify those who filled out the surveys. But a Nielsen Radio Fall report states: "Nielsen Audio has evidence that the household of a radio station owner affiliated with KFIG AM, KJWL FM and KYNO AM obtained and returned Fall 2013 Survey diaries."
Ostlund canceled interviews Monday and Tuesday with The Bee to discuss the Nielsen report because he was ill. But he did briefly respond to e-mail questions.
"The owners of One Putt Broadcasting did not fill out diaries, although the 'offending party' in the media household has learned a valuable lesson. As to why — I believe it was passion for our stations," Ostlund writes, adding that actions have been taken to prevent this from happening again and that this is not a Federal Communication Commission issue.
It's the policy of Nielsen Audio not to comment on specific client situations, but the company released this statement: "Nielsen Audio is committed to the highest standards of integrity in our data and our panels. We work closely with our clients to uphold and maintain these industry standards and policies."
Nielsen Audio uses a sampling of .002% of the population — around 777,000 — to send about 1,550 local radio listeners the weekly survey. The ratings company declined to say how local listeners connected to the station group would be sent the diaries so often when there is a formula that ensures a broad-based result.
Ostlund writes: "It's not credible that Nielsen would send diaries to a known media household. They knew in 2011, they knew in the spring of 2013 and they knew again in the fall of 2013, but continued to make contact and send diaries. Only recently have they admitted to taking the household off the contact list. If they can do it now, why didn't they do it in 2011?"
The removal of the stations from the ratings book means the fall survey doesn't accurately reflect market listening trends. With the six bad surveys removed, the top five local radio stations in the fall ratings are (each rating is the percentage of listeners — 12 and older — who tune in between 6 a.m. and midnight weekdays):
KBOS (FM 94.9), 8.6
KMGV (FM 97.9), 6.6
KSOF (FM 98.9), 5.5
KSKS (FM 93.7), 5.2
KLBN (FM 101.9), 5.0
Managers of Fresno stations declined to comment on how the adjusted book affects them.
Radio stations take pride in how many people listen, but there is a more practical need for correct ratings. The numbers are used to determine advertising rates. More listeners mean the station can charge more money for commercials.
That's a key point with One Putt because the dates covered in the fall 2013 listing are from Sept. 12 to Dec. 4 — a time period when almost all of the Fresno State football games were broadcast on the new home of KFIG. The lack of numbers for that period means there is no official way of knowing how many people listened to the Bulldogs broadcasts.
The ratings numbers are important for national advertisers, who use the information to determine where to place ads. But a local media expert says the ratings aren't quite as important locally because several factors are used to determine the best stations to advertise on.
"It gives them a position in the market place. Yes, we look at qualitative. Yes, we look at how they fulfill FCC rulings to support the community, but it also shows how they fit with other stations. It's important, but not the only thing," says Linda Sommers, director of media services for Catalyst Marketing Company in Fresno.
Back to work
KMPH (Channel 26) weeknight news co-anchor Ashley Ritchie returned to work Monday after being on extended maternity leave.
"After three months on bed rest, everything went great when Baby Noah came on Oct. 9. 8 pounds, 1 ounce. 20.5 inches. Happy to be back at work. But definitely missing my babies!" Ritchie says.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.